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County’s Census Mail Returns Exceeds 2000 Rate

Staff Report

WATER VALLEY – Yalobusha County is one of 19 Mississippi counties that have exceeded their 2000 Census mail participation rate by 10 percentage points or more.

Sixty-seven percent of Yalobusha County households have returned their 2010 Census questionnaires, a rate that matches the statewide mail-back rate and is 16 percent higher that the 2000 Yalobusha rate, according to Census figures released Monday.

Water Valley gave a boost to the county figures with a 72 percent participation rate for 2010. That’s up from 57 percent for 2000.

Meanwhile, Coffeeville is at 57 percent, which is down from 62 percent in 2000. And, Oakland is at 55 percent, down one percent from the last Census.

The sixty-seven percent participation rate for Mississippi matches the 2000 Census mail-back rate. Nationally, U.S. households have also matched their 2000 mail participation rate of 72 percent.

Additionally, 46 out of 83 Mississippi counties have met or exceeded their 2000 mail participation rates. What’s more, 19 of those counties have exceeded their 2000 mail participation rates by 10 percentage points or more. Pearl River County, Walthall County and Prentiss County bested their 2000 performance by 12 percentage points.

Still, the state’s four largest cities report mail participation significantly below their 200 rates. Three counties, Issaqena, Claiborne and Jefferson, have rates of 20 percentage points or more below their 2000 rate.

A high mail response rate is important because it saves taxpayer money. It costs 42 cents per household to mail back a Census questionnaire, but an average $57 per household when Census workers must go door-to-door to collect the information in person. The Census Bureau saves about $85 million in operational costs for every percentage point increase in the nation’s participation rate by mail.

The Census workers who will hit the streets in May must be trained and undergo a criminal background check. Additionally, it usually takes several visits for a Census enumerator to catch someone at home who is authorized to provide the information to answer the few simple questions included in the 2010 Census form.

Nationally, U.S. households on Friday matched the 72 percent mail-participation rate of 2000, the first Census that participation has increased in decades. Mail returns will continue to be tallied through this week as Census questionnaires arrive at the nation’s three processing centers.

The 2010 Census was expected to face obstacles to participation with 30 million more people, a growing number of non-English speaking residents and the rise of identity theft and increasing mistrust of government.

Census figures are used to allocate congressional seats among the states and are a factor in the disbursement of more than $400 billion annually for schools, highways and other public services.

The 2010 Census includes 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The 2010 Census forms were sent to 120 million mailboxes in mid-March. It is the 23rd Census undertaken since it was created in 1790. Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires a count every 10 years.

Even with these changes to make the census the shortest and easiest in a lifetime, the Census Bureau still projects that it will have to send census takers to an estimated 48 million households that do not respond by mail. Following up door-to-door to count households from May to July will require hiring about 700,000 census workers.

Those workers will likely have been hired from the neighborhood, will carry a Census identification card, have Census questionnaires and a confidentiality notice.

“We ask that you take a few minutes to answer the questions and cooperate with a worker who has a lot of houses to visit,” said Gabriel Sanchez, director of the regional Census office in Dallas. “We don’t want to interrupt your evening any more than we have to.”

The Census is the only national undertaking that includes every person in the country. A basis for America’s representative democracy, Census counts are also used to redraw state and local legislative boundaries so that political representation is fairly distributed across their changing populations.

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